1/12/18 Morning Musing: We Damage His Name…

After reading another story about another woman being sexually assaulted by a man and it not coming to public knowledge for decades and hearing her disparaged and minimized because she “waited too long” or because it was “decades ago”…I just can’t be quiet any longer. (This time, it was Andy Savage of Highpoint Church in Tennessee.) It’s late and my heart hurts so be patient with me as I try to make coherent points.

I can not understand how “waiting so long” is supposed to negate the victim’s reliability or the truth. People in power have gotten away with abuse of the ones without that power forever…and unfortunately, it is also true in churches. But unlike outside of the church, we Christians should be held to a different standard…not because we are better than anyone else…not by a long shot. We should be held to a higher standard because we have intimate understanding of Jesus’ example of giving a voice to the voiceless…of bringing justice to the marginalized…and giving dignity to the broken or hurting. This intimate knowledge of our God and his heart means that we can not continue to ignore injustice and abuse of power while representing our Lord accurately because each time we do, we aren’t just lying…we aren’t just hurting the individuals being denied justice…we are also damaging the name of our God.

We damage his name when we continue to turn a blind eye to abuse.

We damage his name when we refuse to see other people…other image-bearers…as valuable.

We damage his name when we give racism or sexism (or any other ism) a pass by remaining quiet when we know we should be speaking up.

We damage his name when we refuse to enter into honest and respectful dialogue about topics that matter. (This contributes to the trend of people seeing the church as obsolete.)

We damage his name when we defend abusers and judge victims based on whether or not we align with them politically, denominationally, etc. (Yes, I just went there.)

We damage his name when we push for male leaders in church to receive funds for their ministry, appropriate pay and title, and continuing education while denying it for their female counter-parts.

We damage his name when we beat people up with our religion instead of listening to them and loving them.

We damage his name when we applaud what is wicked and criticize what is good.

We damage his name when we deny others the freedom that we simultaneously demand for ourselves.

We damage his name when we judge others instead of remembering how we have been forgiven.

We damage his name when we mistreat each other in the name of “witnessing.”

We damage his name when we abandon the needy, weak, marginalized, aged, or hurting.

We damage his name when we refuse to own our sins and, instead, justify our ugly behaviors or minimize them by using more palatable wording so that we can feel better about ourselves.

I could go on and on forever with this. At some point, we must quit tolerating the abuse of power. If we are the ones with power, God’s blessings are not limited…there is no need to try to hoard it. If we are the abusers, yes there is forgiveness…the gospel is not too small for any sin…but that doesn’t mean that accountability is void. If we are the survivors…and hear me on this…please hear me…our pain is not to be wasted! It can become a beautiful place that will allow us to minister to others and understand the hurts of others if we allow it. If we are the ones without power, our God is the God Who Sees us (El Roi) so he clearly sees the power-mongers and they will be held accountable.

How are you doing with this? Did any of these points make you wince a little or bring a specific incident to mind? Is there some way that you can pursue a more truthful and authentic way of living this out? Is there someone that you feel you should apologize to? Is there forgiveness that you can extend to someone regardless of whether or not they have asked for it?

My prayer for us tonight is that we would simply love each other better. I am praying that instead of constantly grappling for power or position or status or whatever, that we would see the truth of what is important and life-giving and pursue it with abandon. I am praying that we would try to squeeze every bit of living out of this life while we have it instead of pursuing the things that lead to our physical, emotional, and spiritual death. I am praying that we would also learn how to receive love when offered by others.

Much love friends,

Beks

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9/7/17 Morning Musing: How I Practically Found My True Identity

Since my last musing, I have had people reach out to me and ask some questions. The most common one was: “Ok, I get that I need to find out who I am…learn about my individual identity…but what does that actually look like practically? It’s easy to do it in theory…but how does one go about actually discovering their God-given identity?” So, I’m no expert (when has that ever stopped me from talking?) but I will happily share how this process went for me so maybe it will be easier for you.

I have been on a journey of learning who I really am for over 6 years now and I would say that the most meaningful thing I did was put aside an entire day last year for just spending time with God asking him who HE says I am instead of telling him who I say I am. No distractions. No plans. No screens. An entire day of just listening. And I’ll be honest with you…it was hard and frustrating for at least 2/3 of that day. I don’t know about you, but being completely still and quiet so that I can hear is really hard for me. I have trouble doing this for 15 minutes let alone an entire day. I had to be comfortable enough to not be distracted by my discomfort. I had to be uncomfortable enough to keep from falling asleep. There were a lot of little things I had to eliminate through the course of my day to keep distractions at bay.

I recognize myself to be both an interpersonal learner and a kinesthetic learner meaning I learn best with my hands on something or my body moving and through dialog with other people…but I was trying to have a dialog with someone who doesn’t audibly answer me back and if I’m too active, it becomes a workout as opposed to a conversation. So, what I came up with was that I would art journal with God. I didn’t know what I was creating along the way…I just knew that I would create something with him…and that my hands would be busy so that my mind could be thinking. (For those with ADD/ADHD, like myself, this is a very helpful tool that is not always true for the general population.) So, I just started gathering stuff…anything really…that I could use in the project and I started laying it out on the paper and a characteristic of mine…not necessarily my identity…but a strong characteristic none the less…began to emerge. I had managed to pull two different fabrics together that both apply to me on a daily basis: denim and lace. I love jeans! They are strong and durable and go with everything…when I want to be tough, I wear jeans. I am not a fancy gal and I don’t do formalities (it makes me feel inauthentic)…I like comfort and depth and jeans seem approachable to me. On the flip side, lace is delicate and light and gentle and beautiful…it’s not as durable as denim…it has vulnerability to it and, at times, I like that too. I loved the contrast of the two fabrics when I saw them together and it made me think of how I hate being pigeon-holed. I am a multi-faceted person and I hate being forced into a mold…and when I recognize it happening, I respond rather violently to it…I feel the need to not just break the mold but shatter it…tell me I can’t do something and I will absolutely spend every ounce of energy I have proving you wrong. (I had a male teacher tell me once that girls were not as good at math and science as boys were. When I had completed both my BS in biomedical science and MS in integrative physiology, I went back and told him how wrong he was…a full 10 years later I was still trying to ravage a mold that I didn’t want to be pressed in to!) All that to say that I had my background for my individuality…among all of my likes and dislikes, I had found a thread connecting many of them…freedom! I needed the freedom to be and do what I wanted…not what others wanted for/of me.

And that is where the progress came to a screeching halt (or so it seemed) for several hours. I slowly started arranging and attaching the fabric background to my art journal pages and talking (sometimes out loud) with God. For most of the day, I would throw out some of the characteristics that I saw in myself (fierce, independent, deep, intelligent, etc) and got angrier and angrier at him as each one would not sit quite right. “No…that isn’t your identity” I would hear in my head over and over…and it pissed me off…I even resorted to arguing with him because I was these things. “But that isn’t WHO you are” I would hear. Aaarrrgghhhh! 

By early evening, I finally heard the first word: Created. “Are you serious God? Really? Everyone is created! That freaking rock on the ground is created. That is so boring! Even cockroaches are created! Ugh! This sucks!” As I wrestled with this word, an adverb was added: purposefully. Ok, so purposefully created…what do I do with that? I started thinking about how I like to create things (I was literally doing it right then!) and realized that I was purposefully created so that I could create with a purpose. Hmmm…ok, so that’s better than the cockroach thing. That is something to ponder for a while. What else have you got for me God? Loved. Ugh again! Everyone is loved by God, aren’t they? But…I have really experienced God’s love in some of my most broken places…deep inside where I have protected my damage from others and even from myself. And then I realized, maybe for the first time, that I love my people with a huge love…it’s not like other people I know…there is definitely something distinctive about it. Ok, more to ponder. Then, came the third and final word that day: Forgiven. That one immediately put me in tears as I relived how I have injured others during my life and I grieved deeply having hurt them. I started to think of some of the injuries I had received from others as well and realized that I am a forgiver. I am forgiven and it allows me to be a forgiver.

That was it that day. I spent about 15 hours and literally got 3 words from God: Created, Loved, and Forgiven. Those were not the words I had wanted…I wanted something with badass as a description…but apparently that isn’t WHO I am (It’s just what I am! Haha!!! Couldn’t resist.) I saw a pattern emerge: God gives from who he is…so who I really am will reflect him. This helped me see a couple of more words later as I reflected on my favorite name of God: El Roi (God who sees me.) I love that name because I often struggle with feeling invisible…and out of that struggle, I have come to a place where I see people…really see them where they are…and can love them and value them right there. That is where I got two more words: Known and Wanted. 

Since then, I have become more comfortable with my true identity. I have been able to see how I had previously come to different conclusions about my identity…I discovered that a lot of my characteristics were really a response to situations that I have experienced as opposed to characteristics given to me by God. (For example, I was tough because I had been injured in the past and never wanted to feel like a victim again…so I became a 2nd degree black belt. I wanted intelligent as my identity because I felt dumb for most of my life because I learn differently than is valued by our educational system. I wanted to be defined as independent because I know I can count on myself…it’s others that have let me down in the past.) I may or may not be those things…but they aren’t my identity…they aren’t WHO I am…because if they were, I would actually be defined by the hurts that caused me to respond in those ways. No, I am not defined by my damage…I am defined by the meaningful ways that God has poured into me…and that is why I am able to pour out those characteristics…and I feel whole and amazing when I get to do them.

That is how I arrived in this new place of freedom…and if you have read this far, then you not only have a lot of endurance in this long musing, but you may also want to ask yourself some questions: Do you know who God says you are? Are you able to differentiate between who he says you are and who you tell yourself you are? What might you do in order to position yourself to hear from God instead of all the noise around you? What characteristics do you have that are a response to pain in your life? Are you letting those characteristics (and pain) define you? What is the thing you give to the world and despite continuing to pour out, you end up filled up?  

My prayer today is that we would be able to still ourselves enough to hear from God. I’m praying that we would achieve our purpose in life by fully coming to terms with our true identity. I’m praying that we would become positioned so that we can continuously receive from God and consequently keep pouring out from him as well.

Much love friends,
Beks

5/9/16 – Morning Musing: Being Me

Last fall, I went to a conference specifically for Christian women in leadership. I was really excited to go and there was one particular session that I was looking forward to: Working With Men: Dive, Survive, or Thrive. I was familiar with the speaker for this session and knew that she was a pioneer for women where she is employed. Since I was working in a place where the overwhelming majority of leadership positions were filled by males and the majority of supportive roles were filled by females, I had found myself chaffing…struggling under the weight of this. Now don’t get me wrong…I was never looking to climb the ladder…I wasn’t even looking for a job when I got that one…I just wanted to minister to people…to help people see and embrace the truth and grace and freedom available to them…I wasn’t interested in money or position and so I was able to approach things without an agenda.  

Anyway, I went to this session with some of my work friends and the most humiliating thing happened: The speaker began to speak and I began to furiously take notes. As the session progressed, I began to feel heavier and heavier until I just sat there open-mouthed and confused. Is this really happening? Did I really just hear her say that women needed to suppress their emotions in order to work with men? And thank the men that allowed them to be a leader? What? And then it happened. I felt the first tear fall down my cheek. No!!!!! Stop! I berated myself as my vision blurred while I sat there on the second row and cried as the speaker asked this room full of women leaders to suppress what is a big part of many of us and is fully God-given. The message I received loudly and clearly was “If you want to be successful in this male-dominated field, you will need to become more masculine so that the men can feel comfortable with you.” The speaker made eye-contact with me and was visibly disturbed by the expression on my face complete with the tears, sniffing, and red blotchy skin. No poker-face here!  

My co-workers who were with me were trying to help me out but I just couldn’t seem to reign it all in. It took me a while to find words for why I was so broken by that speaker’s message but I finally did. I was grieving. This woman, whom I had looked up to was giving me the same message as the men that I had struggled with: There is a specific persona that I would have to embody if I wanted to get to really do ministry. I would have to suppress the strongest parts of myself and be inauthentic in order to get the opportunity to speak truth to people. Do you see the irony? I would have to lie about who I am to myself and others if I wanted the chance to speak truth…any truth I could ever offer anyone would have to begin with a lie. I couldn’t stomach this at all. I had come so far from the self-doubting girl who didn’t understand why God had made her “incorrectly” (a female with “male” gifts of leadership, pastoring, teaching, etc.) I had finally reached a point of understanding that I, too, was an image-bearer of the Almighty despite being female…had finally started to accept my God-given and carefully designed character and personality and this message directly attacked the freedom that had finally become available to me. I had gotten this message a lot over the years and had been able to disregard it most of the time because I figured that we all learn our lessons at different rates…just because I knew something was true didn’t mean that everyone else already knew it. What made it so very painful this time…was that this message was coming from a woman who had paved the way for me…she should have known better.  

I lost respect for one of my role-models that day because she was asking me to be inauthentic…to lie to myself and others about who I am…to hide. I have a lot of flaws…and I own them fully…but inauthenticity is not one of them. I can not and will not pretend to be less so that others can feel good about themselves.  

So, how are you doing with this? Do you know yourself? Really know yourself? Do you understand how your specific characteristics are meant to benefit the world around you? Do you sometimes doubt your gifts and design? Where do those doubts stem from? What usually spurs you to deny who you are? How can you change that way of thinking around so that you can honor not only how you were designed…but also the One who designed you?  

My prayer today is that we would be authentic people who love others, ourselves, and God well by speaking and living out truth because if what we offer isn’t truth, we are just filling the world with noise.

Much love friends,
Beks

2/23/16 Morning Musing: Beautifully Broken

I went to my art class today…a class that I will admit has given me some trouble this year…not the lessons really…more the personalities. I am an outsider…each of the women there signed up with a buddy and have their own little pockets of friends in class…so I feel that sense of not fitting in each week when I attend. The instructor is amazingly talented…but was sharing a lot of negativity on and off for the first few weeks. (Things came to a head a few weeks ago when my tendency to ask questions was turned into an assumed character flaw…I stayed after class and…well, we have an understanding now…she will not assign character traits to me based on incorrect assumptions and I will continue to ask questions because that is how I learn.) I am sure that the weird tension between the instructor and I didn’t help loosen the friendship pockets any.  

Anyway, a few weeks have passed and today, one gal who has been really closed off and tightly wound the whole semester, shared a very small tidbit of information about her son. I immediately felt compassion for the people in the situation that she described and shared with her some ways that I empathize with her situation and her son’s as well. See, I can identify with some of what the son has experienced and shared some things with her that might help her level of understanding where her child is concerned…ways that I have struggled and ways that I have failed along with the fears that accompany those failures…fears that I would be pigeon-holed or stereo-typed…fears that the way that people look at me will change…fears that relationships would be reduced to me living in a microscope to be studied…lots of fears.

And that is when it happened. The feel of the entire class changed. People started mingling more…walking around and looking at each other’s work and asking questions about how to achieve certain effects…sharing more about their real lives…encouraging each other through various struggles and sharing experiences that might help. This small group of predominantly uncomfortable strangers began to be known just a touch…let down their guard a tad…even giggle or tear up a little bit. Walls started to come down as posturing ceased and a journey toward depth began. I don’t know why I am telling you this except that it really struck me. I thrive on depth and authenticity and am really stifled (and somewhat sickened) by falseness and insincerity so this change…this new real-ness…this willingness to be a little vulnerable…well, it’s what I value most and it’s a glimpse of what I imagine Heaven will be like…what Eden was like before…

So, how are you doing in this area? Are you known? Really known? Do people have access to the person that you really are? Warts and all? What prevents you from being authentic? Do you allow others to be real? How can you encourage this more?  

My prayer today is that we would be brave. That we would allow who we really are…the actual creatures that God designed us to be…to be. That we would get comfortable being uncomfortable and just sit in it…not try to wiggle out of it…not side-step it and steer things away from our faults…because I think that our scars and broken parts might just be our most beautiful parts…because unlike the parts of us that get it all “right”…our tender bits are, after all, the parts that make us need the God that created us.

Much love friends,
Beks

10/15/15 Morning Musing: Happiness is Enjoyed Most When Shared

A few years ago, Stan told me about getting to judge a baking contest at work. There were several interesting entries but one, in particular, stood out to him as something that I would really like. (I love shortbread, sugar cookies, and butter cookies and this particular cookie reminded him of those.) After the contest, he told the woman who baked the cookies about me and asked for the recipe. That is when the woman told him that they were not cookies, they were tea cakes and that she would never share the recipe because it was her dead grand-mother’s recipe. It was awkward and uncomfortable and I was really proud of Stan for biting his tongue because his immediate thought was to add some levity by saying “Keeping secrets is a killer.”  
I’ve thought about that story many times over the years and it still bothers me. I do not understand the idea of something being so wonderful that you withhold it from others. (Within reason of course. Clearly there are exceptions: For example, sex with your spouse is something that you with-hold from others because sharing that with others would also depreciate what is special and intimate about it.) But in this case, I keep asking myself questions from the woman’s point of view: Would sharing this recipe somehow dishonor Grandma? Would someone else enjoying these “cookies” take away from my enjoyment of them? Do I want this wonderful thing to die with me? How did I find out about this recipe if not for Grandma sharing it with me?  
I keep asking different questions and just don’t get to a satisfactory answer for any of them and I realized that my objection isn’t about the cookies at all (shocker!)…it’s about the withholding…exclusion. While this wasn’t a rejection from the “cool club,” I still see an underlying problem. Why withhold? Why would you not want someone to enjoy something? Is it possible that what you are really enjoying is the act of excluding someone?  
Why am I telling you about cookies and being left out of the group of “cool kids?” Well, as you have probably guessed, I’m really talking about sharing our experiences and emotions. I’m not suggesting that you put all your “stuff” out there like I do. (I know that most people are not wired the way that I am and, honestly, your “stuff” can be tender and require being handled gently.) But I am suggesting that you share your “stuff” with people. You have experiences and gifts that others simply do not have…but those people would benefit from hearing your story or observing you use your gifts. It seems to me that if we love people, we will share things with them. (Isn’t that what the gospel is about? Sharing the good news?) It seems to me that we have gotten to a place where we reverse a lot of things: We share our time with people every day but we withhold our stories…our essence. We share our bodies with strangers but withhold our hearts. We share our money with every conceivable company out there but withhold it from God. We share our attention with a million different people but withhold it from our children.  
How are you doing with this? Are you withholding something from someone that you should be sharing? Even if it is a burden, sharing that with someone who you love can allow intimacy to grow. What about who you are? Are you sharing who you really are with people or do you have a persona that you wear like a mask? In an attempt to appear perfect, are you losing sight of who you are? Do you even know that the person that you are (under the makeup…the appearances…the bravado) is a person worth knowing? Worth loving? Worth sharing?  
My prayer today is that we would take a good look at ourselves, begin breaking down walls that we have erected, choose to accept what we see in the mirror, and share our stories…because as image-bearers of God, we are each a reflection of a really amazing love story to the world…and it would be a shame if the story went untold. Much love friends,
Beks

5/5/15 Morning Musing: Finding Me

Wanna take a test that tells you about your personality?  Your ideal career?  Which color you represent?  What Starbucks drink you are a living version of?  Um…Yes!  I do!  (I don’t always post it because I don’t want to be “that girl” but I definitely take them.)  Lately, I have been just obsessed with personality tests, spiritual gifts tests, and learning about how different people are wired and I have finally discovered why that is:  At the age of 38, I am finally discovering who I am.  (I know…it’s weird…especially for someone as introspective as I can be.)  I have always been a chameleon and have been able to adapt to where I am, who I am with, and what’s going on around me.  (I even wrote about this before on 8/14/14.)  The new thing I’m learning, though, is that I have been such a good chameleon for so long, that I didn’t really know where I resided…where my neutral exists…where my feelings and tendencies call home.  So, I have been spending some time learning and feeling and talking to God about who he made me to be…and I have found that I have spouted lots of things about myself that simply aren’t true for me but have been true for adaptations that I have made in different scenarios.  

One example is in my family of origin.  In our household (and in every household) there is an identity…something that defines the people in it.  (One thing about being the youngest child is that your family identity is frequently already established when you arrive on the scene.)  In the Vinson house, we were followers of Jesus, people who were comfortable with logic and uncomfortable with feelings, patriots, people who do not know how to do conflict well (I refer to us as a “warring people”), there was a strong sense of independence, and our house was run in a patriarchal manner.  As a chameleon, I adapted to all of this well.  The problem?  I didn’t take the time, until recently, to figure out my own stance on each of these items…I adopted the values that were given to me.  Turns out I agree with much of it but there are some things I don’t agree with.  For instance, I still like logic but, as it turns out, I am a rather emotional person even though I have detested that about myself and tried to squash it for years.  I am independent and capable but I am relational to the extreme so pure independence and poor conflict skills just don’t fly for me (because words really, REALLY matter to me.)  
Not knowing myself has been a problem for me because it has made everything work…there was no neutral for me to rest in…nothing has ever truly felt like home for me.  For example, I have believed for years that I was type A…turns out that I am not at all…I simply start bringing order and logic to things when I feel emotional because I don’t trust the emotions and I need to do something with the nervous energy.  (I could always be found cleaning when I was angry or sad or anxious. The more pleasant my feelings, the worse my house looks so not cleaning my house for people when they are coming over is actually a sign that I am comfortable with them…I know…I’m weird.)  
Also, my relationships have been affected by not knowing myself.  For example, I didn’t trust emotions and avoided them at all cost in myself and others.  I have been told that I was closed off (which I dismissed because I thought “I share my stuff with the whole stinking world and have no concept of what is or isn’t appropriate to share.  There is no way that I am closed off.”)  Now, I think that maybe she was picking up on my chameleon nature and was thinking that I was being intentionally false.  And maybe I was…
Finally, my relationship with God has been affected by not knowing myself.  It is hard to have an appreciation for your creator and his work in you when you don’t really get what that looks like because you don’t know what “you” look like.  I have even been mad at God, in the past, for giving me gifts and passions in areas I don’t like because they require a lot of feeling and sensing and other stuff that can’t be precisely measured.  This touchy-feely stuff has been unknown, uncomfortable, and slightly chaotic in my brain up until now.
As always, I am coming to the question you are always asking with me:  What is the point???  Well, I guess it is several but all of them come out of spending some quiet time reflecting and getting painfully real with myself.  So this is what I have come up with:

1.  Rest doesn’t come to anyone who is constantly performing.

2.  It is hard (if not impossible) to understand what you are designed by God to know about God if you don’t know who you are.  This world is a mystery and you are the only one who can get the whole truth about yourself.  Knowing truth teaches us about Jesus (the way, the TRUTH, and the life.)  If you don’t learn the truth you are meant to learn about him, the rest of us can’t learn that from you and we miss out.

3.  It is difficult to use your giftedness to the best of your ability if you don’t know what that giftedness and ability look like.

4.  Empathy is beautiful and rare and I postulate that, part of the reason why, is because people don’t know themselves so they can’t really “get” others.  It sure is hard to minister to people in effective, bone-deep ways if we can’t understand their hurts and needs through empathy.

5.  I further postulate that we develop coping mechanisms that could point us to some things about ourselves that we don’t understand.  For example, I apparently “have no filter.”  Could it be that my tendency to share everything has been an attempt to be transparent with you all when I didn’t know how to be transparent with myself?  When others tell me things about myself, I am more-able to hear it and recognize it.  (My heart in writing has been about speaking truth and encouraging others…but, in doing this, I have learned more about myself along the way.)
So, how are you doing with this?  Do you know who you are?  I mean really know?  Are your tendencies more developed from who God made you to be or more from your circumstances?  If you don’t know or think it is more from your circumstances, try answering some of these statements:  God blessed me when he gave me this character trait: __________.  The most fulfilling way I know to help others is to __________ because it makes me feel _________.  The greatest compliment someone could give me would be to say __________.  The three things that make me feel the most alive and free are ____________________.  (And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (‭John‬ ‭8‬:‭32‬ NLT))
My prayer this morning is that something in this would resonate with you…that you would look at the beautiful creation you are and…not be disappointed…but delight in what God has done in you.  (You may see things you want to work on, and that is ok…just don’t try to change who you are because I think that lying about God’s work is an affront to him.)  I am praying that we would allow ourselves the time and resources we need to investigate ourselves for the purpose of living out truth…not some “version of the truth”…but the real truth so that we can better see our real God.  Much love friends,
Beks

1/30/15 Morning Musing: “Here’s To Not Being Exhausting!”

I have a lot of back-story…a ton! I’ve shared a good portion of my story here: poisoning and the resulting bitterness, anger, and health damage from it, my personality flaws and how I developed some of them, my spiritual journey including some periods of crisis, all about my family who get named in nearly every post…all kinds of stuff. There is a lot to my story and to spend much time with me requires understanding of a lot of my story in order to not get offended (For example, with the brain damage, I forget things…people who are close to me have to deal with re-telling me stuff all the time…can you imagine how frustrating that is to them?!)

A few months back, I was dealing with something in the middle of being just…beat. I don’t remember exactly what the issue was but I needed to talk to someone who already knew me and my entire back story without me having to retell it all…I needed someone that would already understand the significance of what was going on. So, I called my girl, Lesley. We talked and came to some sort of reasonable decision together without me having to catch her up to speed on the weirdness that is me. At the end of our conversation, I told her about how I chose who to call for this issue and you know what her response was? “Well…Here’s to not being exhausting!” In my mind, I could see the smile on her face and maybe her even holding her glass up in the air in a toast. I have thought back on that conversation many times over the last few months and can’t help but get a goofy grin on my face every time.

Why in the world am I talking about that? Well, I think that my friend, my Lesley, models friendship in such a beautiful way…a way that many of us could stand to learn from. She invests in people and honestly wants to know their stories. This gal has very patiently taken the time to really get to know me on a bone-deep kind of level over the last several years. She shares some of her own story too (not everyone is quite as revealing about their “stuff” as I am *makes mock shocked face*) so I find her authenticity really refreshing. She is a compassionate encourager and an amazing combination of sweet (where you almost think it can’t be real…but it is) and spit-fire. I love the combination of tenderness and grit that she has. But most of all, when she is talking with me, she is completely present. She was tracking right along with me when I called her that day and didn’t miss a beat or an opportunity to encourage. She also was able to insert humor in just the right place to make the conversation not get too heavy.

I really do have a point here…I’m getting closer and closer to making it. I am wondering how you are doing in this area. Statistically, 9% of people feel that they do not have even one close friend…I’ve been there before…it’s a dark and scary place. So, my question is how are you doing with this? Do you feel like you have friends? Do you feel like you are a good friend to others? If you have struggled making friends, how open and authentic have you been with people? How present are you with them? Could you improve on your current relationships by going deeper with those people? **Warning! Don’t get all saran-wrap-clingy-crazy on people and just walk up to them and emotionally vomit on them…going deeper takes time…it’s a ramp…not a cliff…besides, crazy is best served in small portions so that it’s a bit more subtle…use finesse, so to speak…so that, by the time they realize you’re a total nutter, they are already hooked! 😉** If you don’t have close friends, what steps can you take toward entering into meaningful relationships? What investment can you make today?

My prayer today is that we would invest in relationships with people and that we would prioritize people over things in our lives. I am praying that we would be Jesus to the world around us and love each other well. I am praying that we would invest enough that it makes us able to say, “Here’s to not being exhausting!” Much love friends,

Beks

1/15/15 Morning Musing: I Don’t Want a Make-Over…I Want to Actually Be What I Present to the World!

“The floor looks like it is covered in blue jewels Mama!!!!” little Caleb came running out of the bathroom of our hotel room excitedly. “And I want to go down to that huge hot tub!” Michaela said hopping up and down and grabbing her swim suit from our overnight bag. “How in the world do they see things that way?” I wondered. We were staying the night in a hotel that we found on hotels.com on our way home from our ski vacation. This hotel had gone through a lot of effort to shine the place up a bit…you know…try to make it look nice…adding a lot of flashy amenities while still neglecting the basics. When I went into the bathroom, I saw the tiny blue tiles that Caleb thought looked like jewels…but I also smelled the strange smell (the P-drain on the sink was installed incorrectly) and saw the tile that had fallen off the wall in the corner near the shower…and why was the grout around the toilet that color???? Meanwhile, I hear Michaela talking about the hot tub while I’m looking for an outlet for all of our many electronics…only to find one behind one of the beds with no cover on it and random wires sticking out…and what is that discoloration on the blanket? Ugh…ok…nobody touches anything but the sheets (which do look perfectly white I must admit)…and let’s pray that we aren’t exposed to something that would give me nightmares for life…like bed bugs. I looked over the railing outside our room at the indoor pool and hot tub that Michaela was so excited about…did I mention that the water in the hot tub was green? What the heck had happened? Bait and switch??? When we walked in, there was a big chandelier that made Michaela go bonkers and start dancing…have I mentioned that she is just like me? (She likes shiny things and is easily distracted by them…Stan says I’m a trout that will follow any shiny lure (like a spinner) and Michaela is my clone. But when things settle down, I begin to notice the stuff I didn’t notice before.) At this point, it’s too late. We have schlepped all our stuff in from the car, gotten warm (snow and ice storm is expected that night) and paid. We are going to power through this.

But, as usual, this got me thinking (in two different directions…probably because my adderall was wearing off and it is hard to keep my brain on any one topic once that happens.) My first thought was “When did I lose that sense of wonder?” My kids saw this dump we were in as a palace. They could not be happier with our surroundings. Stan and I, on the other hand, both knew that this was a mistake we would not be making again…we were grateful for shelter and warmth…but we would not be taken in by false online reviews again. But as I watched the kids running around excitedly, I wanted what they had. They saw everything with young fresh eyes…when had I lost that? Is that an age thing? A type-A thing? A protective parent thing? Or…was it a heart-space thing? Was I becoming so entitled that I was ungrateful or snooty? (You know that phrase “Keep Austin Weird.”? Well, I’ve seen stickers in Flower Mound that say “Keep Flower Mound Uptight and Paranoid.” I thought those stickers were funny until this moment when I thought it might be true…)

My second thought was about how we do this in life. We clean up our appearances and put together our stories so that we will be perceived a certain way…but are we just adding the flashy (gaudy) chandelier to the sub-par electrical system? If people saw our real selves for what we truly are, would they respond with excitement and zeal or would their noses crinkle up a bit as the aroma of reality hits them? I know that, in this area, I’m not the average bear. I pretty much let it all hang out…and it’s a turn off to some people…I don’t do a lot of “mystery” and am not trying to protect my appearance (unless the appearance is reality and I think you’ve interpreted it wrong…that makes me lose my mind!) I wear work out gear (despite rarely working out) every day and I have zero…none at all…NO filter. This bugs some people because I guess that makes me “not classy or refined”…but you are never left wondering where you stand with me or what I am thinking. If we are going to be friends, I don’t want you to end up feeling like Stan and I did at that hotel…like bait and switch had occurred…I’d much rather you know what you are getting and actually agree to it. But, like I said before, I’m quite weird in this regard, so I’d love some feedback as to why people do that (put on appearances that are false.) How does someone who wants to truly know you, get past that pretense and get to the real person?

So, it’s a hectic musing this morning…but how are you doing with this? Do you still have that child-like sense of wonder? Do you marvel at your life and your blessings? (For example, if you are married or have a child, does it not blow your mind that you have full-access to this image-bearer of God? Isn’t it amazing that you have been entrusted with someone so valuable to the God of the Universe that he saw fit to sculpt that person in his own image?!) If not, how can you slow down and take stock of what you have? And not only can you do this…but will you do this? The second topic is appearances: Do you put on appearances that are not true? Do you understand that doing that is against what Jesus’ desire is for you? (For goodness sake, He IS truth!) Why do you feel the need to present a certain facade to the world? What are you protecting? Is it a wound from mistreatment? Is it a sin that you don’t want to give up? Is it just a habit based on the culture you were raised in? What should you do about it?

My prayer today is that we would approach Jesus with our eyes wide-open today. That we would see ourselves the way that he does. (My guess is that we would not line up with him in our thoughts about where our value lies.) I’m praying that we would approach him with excitement and zeal and wonder and that it would be real. I’m praying that we would be bold enough to be authentic people who love authentic people. Much love friends,

Beks

10/13/14 Morning Musing: Painfully and Exquisitely Imperfect

Almost done. Almost finished…Crap! I messed up. It was tempting to just draw a line through it like the teacher had instructed us to do when we made a mistake…but I just couldn’t do that. It had to be perfect. Perfection. *Sigh* I pulled out another sheet of notebook paper and turned it at my preferred angle on my desk and I began again on the homework in Ms. Graves’ English class. Perfection and nothing less…in everything that I did…because if I was perfect, people would like me, wouldn’t they? They’d have to because what could you possibly dislike about perfection? Nothing! That’s what. So…here I go again.

This was how I operated growing up…I have always been a bit more than the typical Type-A personality…I was drawing value from being perfect. I needed to be perfect because I wasn’t the most…anything. I wasn’t the prettiest, the nicest, the smartest, the most fun, the wildest, the most outlandish…I was the most mediocre and invisible…at least in my head…and I was determined not to be mediocre. I couldn’t change the other things about myself…I couldn’t make myself smarter or prettier…but I could work hard…damn hard…so that is what I did. And I felt like it added value. After all, if I worked hard enough, I could trick people into thinking I was smarter and better than I was.

The problem with working to create a persona is that you have to always be “on.” If I were to become the “perfect girl” I was going to have to eat, sleep, and breathe perfectly. It got to a point where it took over: it was about grades, looks, popularity, intelligence…everything. You can see how this could become exhausting. In college, I perfected the perfection persona (alliteration! Oh! Ms. Graves would be proud!) because I accidentally found something that I was actually a natural at: Dance. Oh God! I loved to dance! It made me feel like I was flying. When I was dancing, I felt beautiful…all eyes were on me and regardless of whether or not they had seen it before, people couldn’t help but be impressed. I could let my guard down when I was dancing because I actually WAS good at it…I wasn’t pretending…I wasn’t playing a part…so I danced every night…every opportunity that I had…I even bullied my girl friends into going most nights as well. (Summer, Terry, and Becky…oh the things you put up with back then! On the plus side, we didn’t go to a ton of keggers because I was less interested in anything that would take time away from the dancing.)

I was on my way to perfection! I was making the grades by working so hard…I wasn’t learning anything…but who cared?! I had the grades! I was well-known because everyone in this college town went to the dance halls at some point (because there was nothing else to do) and would see me and remember me. I was even on the commercials for the bars there (My Southern-Baptist Preacher Dad would have hated that! All the better because that meant I was “wild” too! Yes, dancing was my huge college rebellion.) I was somebody! And at the same time, I was nobody (unless I was dancing) because every other aspect of me was contrived…false…artificial.

I lived this way for years and years and was still “performing” when I met Stan. But, miraculously, he saw through it. He saw the me that was behind the well-guarded (and perfected after more than a decade of practice) persona. And I don’t know how he saw me…nobody else could…nobody. As a matter of fact, after our first date, his exact words were “There is more to you than meets the eye.” Wow! That scared me and thrilled me at the same time. I didn’t quite know what to do with that. I couldn’t drop him like I did most guys (during this time, I was horrible to guys…I would purposely lure them in until I knew I had them hooked, and then I would drop them because the thrill was gone if I knew I could have them…I’m not exactly sure what I was proving by doing that…I assume self-worth…but it didn’t work…I always came up empty and requiring more ego-feeding.) There was something about Stan that just stuck to me though…honestly, I think it was that he could see through my bull $#!t! Without any effort, he could see me…really see me…and he wasn’t put off by what he saw. How was that possible? Nobody could possibly be impressed with mediocre…could they?

I kept him a little at arm’s length for a while so I could study him. I told him that if he uttered the word “commitment” that I was gone. And to this day, Stan says he “played me like a fiddle.” If I wanted the chase, he was going to give it to me. We went on 50 dates before he kissed me for the first time…that is right FIFTY! That had never happened before. I would be damned if I was going to be the one to make the first move…that wasn’t how I operated…my job was to lure him in and his job was to be enamored with me. (For some reason, that would make him easier to discard…because he would be just like all the rest.) He was not playing by my rules and it frustrated yet appealed to me.

We continued to get to know each other and slowly, the persona that I had worn like armor, began to fade away…until a true version of me began to reveal itself. Over the next few years, I grew not only into a real person…but into a truly loved child of God. And, as always is the case, I came to a point where I tested it. I chose to not be perfect…would Stan turn and run after finally seeing the nasty person that I really am? Would God? And they both surprised me. Neither Stan nor God abandoned me. Neither one condemned me…but neither one sugar-coated it and said that sin was ok either. And I have never felt more loved in my life. What?! You mean I’m not defined by my mistakes? I can be less than perfect and still be loved? I can be real? Instead of fearing that when I made mistakes that I would be rejected, I finally came to a point (in my 30s, mind you) that I could actually learn from my mistakes instead of trying to conceal them. That is when I became addicted to something altogether new for me: authenticity.

The reason I put all of this out there this morning is that I have been asked (a lot lately) how I can be so painfully transparent. The answer is simple…I think that trying to conceal things is much, much more painful than the risk of rejection for authenticity. I’ve lived that painful falseness and I hated it. Now that I have tasted the sweetness of authenticity, I don’t think I could settle for the bitter flavor of living a lie again.

So, how are you doing with this? Are you living authentically or do you have pieces of yourself that you think people would reject if they could truly see it? Do you have a persona that you wear around certain people…all people? Do you have to present yourself in a specific way to anyone? Why? Do you think they will reject you? Will you reject yourself? Do you fear that God will reject you? If you fear God’s rejection, how does it make you feel to know that he sees through it all anyway? What small step could you take today in moving toward being more authentic? I have a feeling that if the thought of this scares you…then it might just be the right step.

My prayer this morning is that we would all embrace the creations that we are…intentionally and thoughtfully crafted in the hands of a perfect God who sees the flaws in us and loves us deeply…deeply enough to die for us. I am praying that we will not continue in our sin of being false…that we would see it as sin…because it’s a lie…and our God is Truth. My prayer is for authenticity so that we can reflect the real image of our Jesus. Much love friends,

Beks

9/12/14 Morning Musing: Can’t You Just Love Me for the Jerk I truly am?

I have had something weird going on with my ear for some time now. About 6 months ago, I went to my allergy/asthma/immunology doctor for a routine check up and mentioned to her that at night, my left ear itches like crazy. She looked in there and said nothing was wrong with it. So I left and continued to experience itching deep in my ear only at night. I have resorted to anti-itch creams and stuff but it’s still going on. Last week, I went back for my 6-month check up and told her it was itching still. She thought she saw something in there and had the nurse flush it. (Turns out it was a piece of glitter! How in the world did I get glitter in there??? Must be my sparkling personality! I know…bad joke…but the coffee hasn’t quite hit me yet this morning.) We had to stop because it started to hurt so intensely. Weird. Over this past week, it has gotten more and more painful and more and more bothersome so I went back again yesterday. The verdict? “You have the cleanest ears I have ever seen in anyone. There is nothing, not a speck, not redness, no pink, no water bubbles…nothing!” This statement actually causes me both pride and frustration. Pride because…well, yes…I am rather fastidious about hygiene…so I love knowing that I have the cleanest ears ever. Frustration because…if there is nothing wrong, then why am I in so much pain? And the thought occurs to me: Am I crazy? Have I become a hypochondriac? Oh no! Now I’m crazy AND in pain! I know what you’re thinking: “Bekah, I’ve always known you were a bit crazy…I could have saved you the cost of 3 office visits!” Well, the doctor went on to hypothesize about what could be wrong and causing my discomfort and came to the conclusion that it could be pressure from deep inside (a dysfunction in my eustachian tube.) She said that I should try taking Mucinex D and drinking lots of water to see if the discomfort goes away since we couldn’t “see” the source of my problem. I’ve taken two rounds of it since then and am already feeling better.

What is the point? What does this have to do with anything in life? So glad you asked. I was thinking about how looks can be so deceiving. I was thinking about when I was struggling with a very deep and painful sin just a few years ago. Nobody could see the pain that I was in. There were no obvious indications to the outside observer. My friends didn’t have a clue that I was slowly dying inside. As a matter of fact, I looked like I had it all together: I was volunteering in various charitable positions. I was helping friends and making meals for those who were sick or who had just had babies. I was studying my Bible every day. And I was writhing in pain and self-hatred and nobody knew it.

I have a very clear memory of the exact moment when I made the worst decision of my life. I was wrestling with God over the temptation that was before me…the Holy Spirit was reminding me of who I am and more importantly, who He is…and I physically held my hand up in the air and said out loud, “I don’t want to hear from you right now. I want to do what I want to do.” Worst decision of my life. I am not a person who would go back and change things in their past given the opportunity because so much can be learned from our mistakes…but that one moment…that one decision…I would change that in a heartbeat. In that moment, I violated my conscience…no…It’s more than that…I offended the God of the universe. Following that moment, I went on to commit the sin that I was hell-bent on committing and have regretted it every day since then. And nobody knew what was going on inside me. I was so broken and I hated myself.

Meanwhile, I was attending Bible Studies and trying to “make things right.” I kept hearing so many women confess sins they were struggling with…and it angered me because their sins (or at least the ones they were willing to speak of) were so minor. (I know…sin is sin…it all separates us from God…but I felt lost and broken and dirty.) I was sitting on a whopper that I was dying to share so that I could begin healing but I was surrounded by women who confessed things like “feeling lazy” or “gossiping” or “holding a grudge.” It didn’t feel safe to confess when someone’s only prayer request was “for traveling mercies.” Are. You. Kidding Me?!!!!! I’m dying over here! I’m silently going under for the last time and I can’t even find a true friend to talk through this with. I came up with only two possible conclusions: 1. Either these women and I operate so differently that I will never fit in with them because I actually sin or 2. These women aren’t being authentic and honest. Neither option was acceptable to me because it still left me feeling broken and incapable of receiving help. There would be no iron sharpening iron as things stood.

That is when I began looking for truly authentic community. I wanted friends who didn’t clean their house before I came over. Friends who didn’t worry about disturbing me and knew they could call or text any time at all. Friends who could show up at my front door without notice, understand that I probably am not wearing a bra, and come in and make themselves at home on my couch. Friends that would snoop through my fridge until they found something that they wanted. Friends who would share their brokenness with me. Friends that I could make a death pact with…not what you are thinking…more along the lines of instructions of what to do and what to get rid of should Stan and I both die so as not to mortify our families. (Haha! Got you thinking about what that could be didn’t I?!) I wanted friends who would call me out on my B.S. and tell me when I was being a bonehead. Friends that would study the Bible with me and challenge me…not because we were in the same Bible Study…because we wanted God’s best for each other. Friends that would love on my family and whose families I could love on as well. Don’t you see? I wanted friends whose behaviors and appearances were reflective of what was also inside them. I wanted this because I wanted to be this.

I know your wondering so I’ll go ahead and make the connection: I don’t want a mysterious illness in my soul any more than I want a mysterious illness in my ear. I want to shine light on the issue and attack it head-on. I want to know the truth so intimately that lies are obvious. The only way to do that is to cling close to my Jesus and be obedient in this moment. For me, that resulted in me confessing my sin to several women who I discovered loved Jesus and loved me. They pointed me to scripture and truth and loved on me. They were not timid about asking me how I was doing with that area of temptation. They still check in on me actually.

So how are you doing with this? Do you have authentic community? Are you being authentic with them? If you don’t have these kinds of people, how can you search them out? Is there someone in your life who is drowning alone and wishing desperately that you would be real with them so that they could be real with you? Are you hiding any sin that is silently choking the life out of you? It’s hard to break with a sin…but, I can honestly say that it is worth it (painful but so worth it) to rip it from your life and boot it to the curb. Are you holding your hand up to the Holy Spirit and saying “I don’t want to hear from you right now. I want to do what I want to do.”

My prayer this morning is that we would all take an accurate inventory of the state of our souls…that we would ask God to reveal to us ways that we can love him and others better…that we would be honest and real with others and encourage them to be honest and real with us. Much love friends,

Beks